Most of us usually start an investigation with an idea of who the focus of our work is and already have some basic background data before we really start to dig in. However, on a warm, sunny September day I was walking the campus of CalTech in Pasadena, Calif., with my good friend and cohort MJ, and discovered a college ID that had been presumably dropped by the owner. With campus security nowhere to be found and a tight schedule to get to LAX, spending more time to locate someone on campus was not a luxury I had. Besides, this was not a CalTech ID, but one from another local college and I could simply drop it into the mail to return it to the owner.

Now, those of us who are adept at research and have been around for a while know the benefits of the Internet and social media. In my classes I talk about the ease of tracking someone through various outlets using online data, so I figured maybe I could quickly get an email or telephone number for her and return the ID. But even I was unprepared for the amount of data on this student that I generated within an hour of searching on my phone! Yes, I never opened up my laptop to run a program, look up an IP address, or log onto a paid service – it was all done on my smart phone and through the Internet. 

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